BACKGROUND: The low number of medical trainees entering primary care is contributing to the lack of access to primary care services in many countries. Despite the need for primary care physicians in the Middle East, there is limited information regarding trainees' career choices, a critical determinant in the supply of primary care physicians.
OBJECTIVE: We analyzed the career choices of medical students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a larger goal of reforming postgraduate training in the region and enhancing the focus on primary care.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of applicants to a large established internal medicine residency program in the UAE. We calculated data for demographics, subspecialty choice, and factors affecting subspecialty choice, and we also reported descriptive statistics.
RESULTS: Our response rate was 86% (183 of 212). Only 25% of applicants (n = 46) were interested in general internal medicine. The majority of respondents (n = 126, 69%) indicated a desire to pursue subspecialty training, and the remainder chose careers in research or administration. A majority of respondents (73%) were women, unmarried, and childless. Educational debt or lifestyle were not indicated as important factors in career choice.
CONCLUSIONS: Low interest in primary care was similar to that in many Western countries, despite a much higher percentage of female applicants and a reduced emphasis on lifestyle or income factors in career decisions. Reasons for the reduced interest in primary care deserve further exploration, as do tests of interventions to increase interest, such as improving the primary care clerkship experience.
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